Brothers v. Dr. Lynch et al
MEMORANDUM re 35 MOTION for Injunctive Relief. Signed by Judge Richard G. Andrews on 4/6/2017. (nms)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
JOHN T. BROTHERS, Ill,
: Civ. No. 15-1185-RGA
DR LYNCH, et al.,
Plaintiff John T. Brothers, Ill, a prisoner incarcerated at the James T. Vaughn
Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, commenced this action on December 21,
2015, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On March 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion for
injunctive relief seeking a different housing assignment on the grounds that he is
disabled, and his current housing assignment does not accommodate him. (D.I. 35).
A preliminary injunction is "an extraordinary remedy that should be granted only
if: (1) the plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) denial will result in irreparable
harm to the plaintiff; (3) granting the injunction will not result in irreparable harm to the
defendant; and (4) granting the injunction is in the public interest." Nutrasweet Co. v.
Vit-Mar Enterprises, Inc., 176 F .3d 151, 153 (3d Cir. 1999). "[F]ailure to establish any
element in [a plaintiff's] favor renders a preliminary injunction inappropriate." Id.
Furthermore, because of the intractable problems of prison administration, a request for
injunctive relief in the prison context must be viewed with considerable caution. Rush v.
Correctional Med. Services, Inc., 287 F. App'x 142, 144 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Goff v.
Harper, 60 F.3d 518, 520 (8th Cir. 1995)).
Plaintiff states that he has chronic headaches and frequent dizziness and vertigo
due to traumatic brain injuries. He uses a cane to walk. Plaintiff states that with his
current housing assignment he is expected to walk too far to get to the chow hall and
this causes him terrible pain, noting that on March 7, 2017 he was denied dinner
because he could not make the walk. Plaintiff complains that staff will not bring food to
him, that the shower does not have railings, he cannot use the bathroom or take a
shower without much difficulty and danger, and there are "all kinds of tripping hazards"
in his housing area. He also complains that inmates are not considerate of his injuries
and he is bumped into and knocked around quite a bit.
Plaintiff is assigned a bottom bunk. Administration told him it had been assured
there were no medical issues with plaintiffs current housing assignment so long as he
is assigned to a bottom bunk. Plaintiff states that "many medical employees" have told
him that he should be assigned to a housing unit for inmates with medical needs.
Plaintiff anticipates that his incarceration will end in four months.
Medical records indicate that plaintiff was evaluated by a neurologist on March 9,
2017. (D.I. 37-1 at 16). Plaintiff relayed the physical difficulties he had, and indicated
that he did not want to live in the infirmary and had heard about "the T building which is
for people that can't move around well." (Id.) The note states that "if MD has
documented restrictions will then put in memo requesting more handicapped housing."
James Scarborough, VCC Deputy Warden, provided a declaration stating that
Plaintiff has been medically evaluated and there has been no recommendation to
change Plaintiffs housing location. (D.I. 38). Scarborough states that moving Plaintiff
to the T-Building, not only changes his housing assignment, but would also change his
classification. (Id.). Inmate housing assignments fall under the purview of the wardens
or their designees (such as the multi disciplinary team). Scarborough states that
Plaintiff has an extensive disciplinary history and is a challenge to manage in any
housing unit other than maximum security. (Id.). According to Scarborough, housing
Plaintiff in a dormitory will place staff, and any inmate assigned there who has physical
or mental limitations or vulnerabilities, at unnecessary risk. (Id.). Scarborough relates
numerous incidents in 2016 when Plaintiff was placed on disciplinary report for his
failure to obey prison rules and regulations. (Id.) Scarborough notes that Plaintiff has
been accommodated with a bottom bunk and continues to receive medical treatment.
As noted, this is a § 1983 action, but the pending motion for injunctive relief
seems to seek accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42
U.S.C. §§ 12132, et seq. Prison officials require broad discretionary authority as the
"operation of a correctional institution is at best an extraordinarily difficult undertaking."
Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 566 (1974). "Although prison officials are generally
entitled to 'wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies and
practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline to
maintain institutional security,' Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 547 (1979), this will not
always absolve them of their obligations under the ADA." Matthews v. Pennsylvania
Dep'tof Corr., 613 F. App'x 163, 169 (3d Cir. 2015).
Here, Scarborough indicates that Plaintiff remains in his current housing
assignment due to his extensive disciplinary history and concerns for the safety of the
staff and other inmates given that history. However, Plaintiff's medical conditions are
also accommodated, as is evidenced by his assignment to a lower bunk. Notably, there
is no evidence of record that medical personnel have determined Plaintiff should be
considered for a special housing assignment. Finally, it is Plaintiff's burden to prove he
is entitled to injunctive relief, and the parties' differing views of Plaintiff's housing
assignment does not affect the Court's decision. Therefore, considering the facts
adduced and the appropriate legal standard, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to
demonstrate the likelihood of success on the merits.
For the above reasons, the court will deny the motion for injunctive relief. (D.I.
35). A separate order shall issue.
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